The real reason for the unreasonably long lines at airport security

Homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson has been all over TV blaming Congress for the massive shortage in TSA screeners at airports.  The problem has reached beyond crisis proportions and is now a full-blown disaster.

O'Hare airport is recommending that travelers arrive at the airport three hours before their flights.  More than 4,000 American Airline passengers have missed their flights since February. 

The problem is equally bad at major hubs like Atlanta.  But is it really a question of those mean Republicans forcing passengers to wait because they cut the TSA budget?

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, has some different ideas on what the problem is:

Edwards told WND and Radio America the TSA is littered with problems, starting with its existing personnel.

“Annual surveys of federal government employees find that the TSA and the broader Homeland Security Department have some of the poorest morale in the federal government,” Edwards said. “The TSA has a high turnover rate for their screeners, which is not good for morale and is not good for security.”

But perhaps even worse is TSA’s penchant for directing its ever-increasing budget into the wrong areas.

“TSA has spent many billions of dollars on things that don’t work,” Edwards said. “As a result, they’ve starved their budget from hiring more screeners to reduce congestion.”

He said the most glaring example is one of TSA’s most controversial projects.

“Remember those full-body scanning machines that were in airports for years that essentially showed nude pictures of passengers as they got screened?” asked Edwards.

“Those things were eventually withdrawn because of civil liberties concerns. People didn’t want to see their nude bodies when they went to the airport. But those things have been found to not really work at all. It’s fairly easy to slip guns and plastic explosives through those machines.”

Another major problem, Edwards said, is the inability of such a large bureaucracy to adapt to differing needs at different airports.

“As a government bureaucracy, the TSA has a very inflexible workforce,” he said. “Unlike a private company, where if they saw one of their facilities or one of their cities get a lot more business and a lot more demand, they’d move workers over there. They’d hire more part-time workers to fill surges in demand. Government bureaucracies don’t do that. They have fixed numbers of people at these airports, and they don’t adjust them like any normal private business would.”

He said airports do have the option to boot the TSA and go with private security. He said only 15-20 airports do that and actually perform better when secret tests are conducted to see whether weapons or explosive materials get past security.

“Airports are allowed to opt out of TSA screening, and some of them have been looking at that recently because of the huge congestion at the airports,” Edwards said.

About 100 TSA screeners quit every week over the last year.  Thousands more over the previous three years.  Only about 400 have been hired to replace them.  They have the money – that's a nonsensical argument.  They have just been slow in responding to the crisis due to incompetent management.

Might this convince airports to privatize security?  Democrats would go ballistic if that happened, given that the TSA union would no doubt be mightily displeased.  The fact is, it might be more trouble than it's worth for airport management.  One of the reasons they accepted the TSA in the first place was the burden placed on airport budgets by an ever-expanding security problem.  Do they really want those headaches again?

If the airlines get mad enough, that may change.  In the meantime, you should probably look into driving if your destination is within a day's travel by car.  You'll lose a day at the airport anyway, and you can avoid all the hassles of dealing with a bureaucracy that has melted down.

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